In Poland, employees who are absent from work must notify their employers of their absence and this obligation still applies if the employer also automatically receives an electronic sick leave certificate.

By: Agnieszka Nicińska

Firm: Raczkowski Paruch

If an employee is absent from work, he or she has two independent obligations:

  • To notify the employer of the cause of the absence and its expected duration (which should be done immediately, and no later than on the second day of absence from work).
  • To justify the absence by presenting a sick leave certificate to his or her employer (as a rule, this obligation is now fulfilled through automatic delivery of an e-ZLA electronic certificate).

The delivery of an electronic sick leave certificate does not mean that the employee’s obligation to notify the employer of his or her absence is waived. The mere fact that the employer receives a sick leave certificate in electronic form does not mean that the notification obligation has been fulfilled (all the more so as these certificates are not necessarily delivered to the employer immediately, and the employer is not obliged to monitor their delivery).

According to the generally applicable laws on absence from work, the employee notifies his or her employer of absence in person or through another person, by phone or through other electronic means of communication, or by post (in the latter case, notification is considered to have happened on the postmark date). The decision on how to notify the employer is at the employee's discretion.

The problem is that if the employee chooses traditional mail, his or her employer will only receive the notification after a week, or even two weeks. This is the gist of the problem: while the decision on how to notify the employer lies with the employee, it cannot be totally arbitrary. The employee should choose a notification method which will allow the employer to learn of the planned absence as quickly as possible. Such an approach will enable the employer to take appropriate action to minimise the negative effects of the employee’s absence. Failure to notify the employer of absence or to do so in time is a breach of the employee’s duty. Importantly, the information should be delivered immediately, and not on the second day of absence, as is commonly understood. ‘The second day of absence’ is the absolute deadline for this form of notification and will apply in exceptional circumstances when it was not possible to make the notification earlier (i.e. immediately).

It is a good idea for employers to specify the way in which employees should notify their absence in internal policies. The generally applicable laws are not very specific, which can lead to considerable practical problems. If the employer makes the employee’s duties clear and gives practical instructions on how to fulfil them, these problems can be avoided.